It’s been awhile since the world was blessed with a full album from Italian synthwave master Vincenzo Salvia, though there are more than enough melodic gems on Weekend to make it worth the wait. Long-time fans will notice immediately that the latest recording has a very different flavor from the excellent Auto Radio as well as EPs like Atlantis and Chromelove. This time around, Salvia’s songwriting style is brighter and more optimistic, and where previous efforts felt like an organic hybrid of vintage Italo disco and the modern sounds of synthwave, Weekend has taken a large step into more personal and unique territory. The result is a collection of hook-heavy pieces that combine classic synthpop and video game soundtracks with synthwave and a host of smaller elements, all peppered with Salvia’s highly detailed compositional style and wrapped up in an irresistibly lighthearted groove.
Weekend opens smoothly on the laid-back, sunny style of “Coastline Breakfast,” which feels like the musical equivalent of cool air on an early summer morning. Salvia’s elaborate and melodic creative approach is on display immediately as he layers one new element over the last, expertly building up through the extended intro until unveiling the track’s gorgeous primary melody. The continuous shifting of counter-melodies creates a nuanced and dynamic piece with several gratifying moments, and it showcases Salvia’s mastery over the elusive art of memorable songwriting. Deep, succinct bass tones anchor the composition while the numerous other components advance and withdraw for a captivating piece that stands up to repeated listens.
Vincenzo Salvia takes the tempo up a notch on the next entry, “Summertime Arcade,” an agile and quick creation that’s a clear homage to ‘80s-era video game soundtracks. The production only flirts with chiptune tones, instead leaving one foot in the realm of synthpop, though the ultra-quick melodies and punctuated backing rhythms bring to mind the quarter-munching goodness of arcade classics of yesteryear, all infused with Salvia’s signature compositional style.
A flurry of excellence occupies the midpoint of the album, as well, first with “Traffic Jam,” then with “Endless Roads, Pt. 1” and “Endless Roads, Pt. 2.” In an especially whimsical twist, Salvia works the light beep of a car horn into the patient and steady rhythm of “Traffic Jam,” and the result is an excellent example of the inspired and unapologetically optimistic tone of the recording.
Both “Endless Roads” tracks shine through with equal spirit. The first is one of the album’s most lively entries, and in terms of the songwriting style, perhaps the most reminiscent of 2014’s Auto Radio. The music opens quickly, diving into a bouncy, upbeat rhythm that is soon joined by Salvia’s chiptune-like melodies that flow across the music with easy grace. The song is once again a master class in writing engaging, memorable melodies, and the dynamic lines of the synth tones propel the composition through its running time with unwavering appeal.
“Endless Roads, Pt. 2” serves as the perfect counterpoint to the lively character of its first half, rolling in with a much more subdued personality on gentle bass notes and the slow groove of the melodies. Along with “White Lines, Red Sunset,” it’s the most low-key entry on the recording, lending balance to the tracklist and demonstrating Salvia’s versatility.
Not every song reaches the same level of seemingly effortless allure, however. “Rush Hour,” for example, feels like a great Vincenzo Salvia tune that’s been left out in the sun too long and its colors have begun to fade. “Vacanze All’italiana” has a similarly desaturated feel, and it’s somehow missing the polish and sheen of the album’s better entries. Weekend is also notably short, clocking in at just 29 minutes, which causes some of the less-than-memorable moments to seem more prominent and frequent than they actually are. However, the running length makes the album a perfect candidate for a vinyl or cassette release, which would match the spirit of the recording perfectly.
Despite the occasionally forgettable entry on the recording, Weekend never loses its charm and never encourages listeners to hasten on to the next track. And although the short running time is somewhat disappointing, it also ensures that the buoyant, highly melodic songwriting maintains its appeal throughout the entire running length. The album is just right as the soundtrack for an afternoon drive or a relaxing morning spent with a cup of coffee.
With his latest release, Vincenzo Salvia has reminded the world why he is one of synthwave’s most endearing and valuable creators. Weekend strengthens the artist’s already impressive discography with eight new creations capable of brightening up any day. The succinct song lengths and relatively brief tracklist make the album feel more like a light lunch than a full-course dinner, though the masterful melodies and infectious rhythms keep the recording’s momentum going strong just the same. For compelling and light-hearted synth music with a retro ‘80s heart, Weekend is a standout.
Rating: 85 / 100 (Great)
Song Variety: 8
(Click here for a full explanation of the grading scale.)
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